Five by 8 – 4/7/10: Why be a teacher?

1) Two news stories in the last day or so have certainly put the public image of teachers in the spotlight. First, a meeting at the Capitol yesterday had the governor calling the state’s education system “a relic.” Political and education leaders were considering whether to apply for another round of federal grants to improve education. The theme: We need better teachers. Then, there’s the story of Michael Rapatz in Hastings. We don’t know whether he’s a good science teacher by the politicians’ definition. But he kept a kid with a gun from spraying his classroom with bullets. His superintendent, Tim Collins, told the whole story on All Things Considered last night.

Google “teacher” in its news section today and you’ll find stories about teacher contracts, teachers accused of sexual abuse, and a teacher bombing a Moscow subway. Even Tiger Woods, professional golfer and philanderer, is blaming his kindergarten teacher for part of his personal failings.

2) Is more health care better health care or should we learn to just have people say no to us when it comes to health care? We can’t have it both ways, says David Leonhardt in today’s New York Times.

From an economic perspective, health reform will fail if we can’t sometimes push back against the try-anything instinct. The new agencies will be hounded by accusations of rationing, and Medicare’s long-term budget deficit will grow.

So figuring out how we can say no may be the single toughest and most important task facing the people who will be in charge of carrying out reform. “Being able to say no,” Dr. Alan Garber of Stanford says, “is the heart of the issue.”

Where to start? Caesarean sections, treatment for prostate cancer, and cardiac stents, he says.

Oh, and don’t think a diet of fruit and vegetables is going to help on the cancer front, the BBC reports. It cites a study that says five-a-day of fruits and vegetables likely won’t change cancer rates much.

3) Three volunteers have gone to great lengths to promote a National Geographic program on solitary confinement. They’ve put themselves in solitary confinement. A Web site provides live video of each of them. Something might be lost in translation, however. They’re tweeting, reading books, and learning to juggle. The beds look comfortable.

4) Life in a coal mine. A few months ago, a West Virginia coal miner made this video of what life is like underground.

The Associated Press tries to explain why people do it.

And explains why economics trumps safety.

5) A week ago I wrote about the role of the TV meteorologist in communicating science information. It was more about the expertise of those who have the audience’s ear than it was a venue for yet another debate on climate change. In the comments section, it ended up as another debate about climate change.

Take a stab at it, Colbert…Bonus: Why? Because sometimes you just need a whole lot of cat to start your day.


A graphic and disturbing video released Monday shows an American helicopter attack in Iraq in which 12 adults were killed and two children wounded. The dead included two journalists. Are you confident that you know how our forces conduct themselves abroad?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Two legislators who are running for governor talk about how they would balance the state budget. Both John Marty and Tom Rukavina say a change in the tax code might be the answer.

Second hour: Book reviewers at major newspapers receive hundreds of books to read and analyze a year, and give positive reviews to more and more of them, according to some reviewers. The praise inflation doesn’t do the critics any good, but it can be hard to avoid. One critic looks back at his modest, and mischievous, proposal to positively write about only those books that he would recommend to friends or family.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Last month, new test scores showed Minnesota students are above the national average in reading. But there’s still a wide gap between how well white students perform compared with students of color. Minneapolis school superintendent Bill Green will join Gary Eichten to talk about how to fix the achievement gap.

Second hour: Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, speaks at the Commonwealth Club of California about the health care overhaul.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Political talk with Ken Rudin.

Second hour: The lives of miners.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Sarah Palin is in town to raise some cash for Michele Bachmann. We’ll have something on the spectacle this afternoon. Rep. Bachmann is streaming the event at the Minneapolis Convention Center on her Web site.

From NPR: In West Texas, a father showed his young daughters pornographic material on his computer. He was texting messages to a woman and watching her on a webcam. He claims, he was to teaching his girls about sex. A west Texas prosecutor isn’t so sure. A case of child protection or the exercise of parental rights?

  • Al

    How do you plan to get good teachers when you can’t pay them wages competitive to other professionals in their fields? Teachers are government employees paid for by tax money and all taxes are bad and all government spending is waste. I keep hearing that recurring theme over and over again.

    I heard again yesterday on MPR of the difficulties of getting enough good math and science teachers. I left my science teaching job for a job in industry and immediately doubled my salary. Before you blame me for not taking an annual $30,000 hit for the good of society, that was the only way we were going move our family out of the crime ridden neighborhood we had been living in. And before you start in with the summers off argument, I work fewer hours than I did before. Summers when I was a teacher meant a crappy part-time job to make ends meet. Not exactly what I had in mind when I was told that if I studied hard and went to college I would get a good paying, professional job.

  • bsimon

    “The Associated Press tries to explain why people [work in mines].”

    You want a job, or not?

  • Alison

    \\You want a job, or not?

    But what keeps people from moving away to another place with different jobs? I’ve long wondered about the bigger question of why people don’t move for a different job or more safety or a less polluted community or whatever. Is it family ties? Familiarity? Lack of imagination of the possibilities? Can’t afford to move?

  • Recovering English Teacher

    I got tears in my eyes listening to the report about the school in Hastings, wondering what combination of luck and knowing the kid that teacher hit upon.

    Still, I’m with Al. While I was teaching, I had to work summers to make ends meet, too. And all those holiday breaks? I spent most of them grading papers. Sometimes I would fantasize about just throwing a set of essays down the stairs, and grading based on which ones slid the farthest at the bottom. Did I do so? Absolutely not, but it never felt good to know that I would have to be able to justify every little mark to a parent wanting to challenge my evaluation of his/her kid’s work.

    Was I a good teacher? Yes. Do I miss it? Some parts, sometimes. Would I go back to it? Probably not. I’m not making more money now than when I was teaching, but when I leave work, I’m done for the day and have time for my family.